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Derek Medlin

Analyzing the movie everyone has seen 1,000 times

Posted February 22, 2012

Following North Carolina's 86-74 victory over rival (yes, rival) NC State on Tuesday night, folks analyzing the game had a pretty easy job to do. Kendall Marshall's career night, the Pack's continued foul trouble, C.J. Leslie finally having success against UNC and 19,000+ fans ready to rumble over a three-day old situation with Karl Hess pretty much told the story.

NC State had a solid plan and executed it fairly well, but North Carolina was just better.

But lost in the post-game discussion of whether or not the Tobacco Road rivals are actually rivals was what the game means for both teams moving forward.

The knee-jerk reaction to NC State's first three-game losing streak of the season wasn't surprising, but the assumption that the Wolfpack are now done without a run to the ACC Championship game in a couple of weeks ignores what is going in the middle of the ACC and nationally.

The bubble is soft, providing NC State ample opportunity over the final two weeks of the regular season to get back on the "Last Four In" side of Joe Lunardi's (Joey Brackets) next NCAA Tournament graphic. Road games against Clemson and Virginia Tech sandwiched around a home rematch with Miami make the path difficult, but it's certainly not impossible.

Depending on what Virginia does in its final three regular season games (UNC, FSU, at Maryland), getting to 10-6 would likely put NC State in the four or five spot heading into the ACC Tournament. If it ends up being five, getting to Saturday with wins over the last place team and Virginia might be enough to get State in the dance.

As for Carolina, Tuesday's win didn't just keep the Tar Heels on track in the race for the regular season ACC title -- it showed the somewhat unlimited ceiling this team has if Kendall Marshall can produce more than just assists.

Thanks to Marshall's career night, Tyler Zeller and John Henson's relative lack of production -- even on an 'off night,' the two still combined for 28 points and 21 rebounds -- went largely unnoticed.

And while expecting performances similar to Tuesday's 22-point outburst would be way too much at this point, a Carolina team that could get 12-15 points from Marshall on a consistent basis late in the season very quickly becomes not only a favorite in the ACC, but nationally. This could easily be a one game wonder situation, but if it's not, watch out.

It would certainly come in handy against teams like Kentucky and Syracuse, both of which have the personnel to bother Henson and Zeller in the post. Perhaps Tuesday's game could be the one that gets Marshall going in that direction. No doubt Roy Williams wouldn't mind.

The outcome of Tuesday night's showdown might have looked like a movie we've all seen 1,000 times (or maybe 12, since that's where UNC's win streak over the Pack now sits), but the way both teams played provided an interesting look ahead to the rest of the season.

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  • gopack3000 Feb 22, 2:59 p.m.

    I like the Pack's chances of winning out. This can be a very good team. Coach Gottfried has the team headed in the right direction. A Sidney Lowe coached team would already be done at this point.

  • shepherdofwolves Feb 22, 3:23 p.m.

    Reading another one of this hacks articles is comical. He obviously missed the - "stick a... View More

    — Posted by Stevie Crisper

    True, but have you seen the resumes of the teams ahead of them on the bubble?

    They are also very weak. They all have some really terrible losses. Seton Hall went on a 6 game losing streak, and until upsetting GTown last night had not beaten one team in the top half of the Big East.

    Last I saw Lunardi had Colorado State in ahead of NCSU. That's right, Colorado State and their 6-5 MWC record. Losses to TCU, Boise State, Northern Iowa, Wyoming, and Southern Miss. Their "signature wins" are against New Mexico and San Diego State, two teams who are playing off reputation more than anything else at this point. Colorado State is no better than Clemson or Maryland in the ACC, AT BEST, but they are an NCAA Tourney team? That's a crock.

    Don't get me wrong, State is going to need to win some games, but the folks ahead of them to make the field haven't been all that impressive either. If NCSU wins out plus a game or two in the tourney, they could easily get in.

  • wjuliang Feb 22, 3:27 p.m.

    I can see the Pack getting to the ACC finals if they avoid play on Day 1.
    Otherwise, they got the '89 sweet sixteen.

  • RaleighRock Feb 22, 3:31 p.m.

    Just get back in the gym. Can't do anything beyond that at this point. We've left some opportunities out there. I give Gott credit for coming in and doing a good job so far in his first year. I like the team's attitude much better. I do wonder how much better we would be with a deeper bench. Vandenburg was looking pretty good prior to his injury.

  • jskinner23 Feb 22, 3:43 p.m.

    Reading another one of this hacks articles is comical. He obviously missed the - "stick a... View More

    — Posted by Stevie Crisper

    Wow. Didn't realize there was an NCAA committee member reading this post. I think Medlin's point is the ACC tourny gives them that one last shot at getting a win against a legit team (although it won't matter if they can't sweep their last three games). Also, 'shepherdofwolves' had a good point. The quality of college basketball nationally has gone downhill and the selection committee still has to find 68 teams to fill the bracket. It is true that NCSU doesn't yet have that 'signature win', but they also only have one really bad loss (GT) which is better than most other bubble teams can say. Odds are still against them, but NCSU's NCAA tourny hopes aren't done.

  • adibu Feb 22, 3:49 p.m.

    I'm just hoping we get another shot at Duke somehow. That would be our best bet for a win against the top 3.

  • tarheelbasketballfan Feb 22, 4:09 p.m.

    State played really well last night. Leslie was the leader of the pack but Wood just doesn't seem to have it. I think a move of Alex Johnson to the point and Brown to the shooting guard would improve this team. Painter also provided good minutes.

  • Zaknow Feb 22, 4:21 p.m.

    State has come along way this season after last year. Gottfred is on the right path. State has a lot of talent and needs to build some confidence. The next three games are important for now and then see if they can get a signature win in the tournement! Go Pack!

  • Wheelman Feb 22, 4:57 p.m.

    State's number one problem is that they have not learned how to play smart and stay out of so much foul trouble. Until they do that, they're not going to have much success against higher ranked teams. When you got a short bench and key players are in serious foul trouble less than halfway through the second half, you're not going to win many of those games. The game was still in reach last night until that started happening. And, it's been this way more than once in the last few games. These aren't freshmen who are making these mistakes.

  • mxteam44 Feb 22, 5:36 p.m.

    State's number one problem is that they have not learned how to play smart and stay out of so... View More

    — Posted by Wheelman

    Very good points! Howell is a handful for a lot of teams, but he does no good sitting on the bench. He had a couple of very silly fouls last night, and those are the kinds of fouls that he needs to learn to avoid. You can still play defense, but swatting at the ball is not a good idea when you already have 3 fouls early in the 2nd half. Guys have to get rid of that "you're not scoring on me" mentality sometimes, and just step aside, let the guy score, then move on to the next possession. There are no "next possessions" if you're sitting on the bench.

    Coach G has the boys playing much better than last year, so Pack fans have to be excited about the improvement! Not quite there yet, but not as far away as you were last year.

    Fun game to watch last night! UNC stretches out a lead, Pack comes back to within 6, UNC stretches it out again, Pack comes fighting back again. Fun, FUN game to watch!

    Go Heels!!!

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